northampton property blogs


23/09/2020

3 Reasons That Will Make You Want to Stop Being a

Northampton Buy-to-Let Landlord 

… and the six reasons that will make you want to become one

The buy-to-let market in Northampton is about to enter a challenging 12 to 24 months. Yet by looking back at the last recession and what is happening now, there are vital lessons all Northampton landlords can learn to protect themselves, and in fact create opportunities for themselves both in the short term and ultimately the longer term. For the purposes of this article, I would like to split these and look at the challenges and then the opportunities.


So, let’s consider the challenges ahead for Northampton landlords …


Overall, the impending rise in unemployment stands to encumber tenants’ ability to pay their rent, the rents being achieved and the possible Capital Gains Tax changes might mean an increase in tax paid by Northampton landlords when they come to sell their Northampton buy-to-let properties. 


Lets look at these three points in greater detail. Firstly looking at your Northampton tenants ability to pay the rent; the Furlough Scheme certainly did help soften the blow, helping out 8.9 million people in May (out of 30.5 million who were eligible for it) and at the last count in early August, this thankfully had reduced to 5.3 million people (meaning 15.86% of workers are still on furlough). However, it cannot be denied the economic fallout from Coronavirus has already placed some tenants under economic strain. As the Furlough Scheme finishes at the end of October, commentators are suggesting the number of tenants either incapable of paying their rent, or requesting a reduction in their rent, is predicted to increase as we go into autumn and early winter.


The ultimate sanction against non-payment of rent is legal proceedings although guidance from the Government has recommended that landlords and tenants should work together and deplete all possible options before starting eviction proceedings. Yet many Northampton landlords are feeling the pressure as many mortgage payment holidays will be coming to a close at the end of September. Some Northampton landlords can indisputably see that their tenants are finding it tough and they are willing to work with them, but they can only make allowances go so far.  Landlords aren’t running a charity and I would stress to any tenant that finds themselves being made unemployed in the months to come to apply for Universal Credit as soon as possible, which should help with their rental payments. With regard to the eviction process, the Government have changed the rules a number of times in the last few months, so if you want an update, don’t hesitate to contact me, whether you are client or not – I am just happy to help.


Secondly, it’s interesting that in central London, there has been a glut of Airbnb properties coming onto the market because of lack of tourists to rent them on a short-term let. A greater supply of rental properties has meant a downward pressure on rents in London of 2.1%. I don’t think this is so much of an issue in Northampton as 


Northampton rents are 2.39% higher year on year


Thirdly, there is talk that the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, is looking at changing the Capital Gains Taxation rules.  As property is the biggest asset that most people own, this is also reason for concern for Northampton buy-to-let landlords. Currently, Capital Gains Tax on sales of buy-to-let property is levied at 18% for basic income tax rate payers and 28% for higher rate income taxpayers. There is talk the capital gains made on the landlord selling their buy-to-let property could be taxed at the landlord’s income tax rate.


Yet before you all start selling your Northampton portfolios before November’s budget, any changes in Capital Gains Tax would be immediate. That means to ensure you didn’t come foul of the potential rise in the tax, you would have to have to sell your Northampton portfolio at a ‘fire sale price’ in days and have a solicitor that could do the conveyancing in 3 weeks (whilst it is taking 19 weeks on average for buyers to sort their legal work out) and the buyer be a cash buyer because banks are taking months, not weeks to sort finance. This is just something we are going to have to take on the chin!


Let us now consider the opportunities ahead for you Northampton

landlords …


As the country officially entered its first recession since 2009, uncertainty in any markets (be it property or stocks and shares etc.) causes investors to vacillate over whether or not to take the jump. Nevertheless, there are numerous indicators that appear to show this is, indeed, a good time either to become a buy-to-let Northampton landlord or expand one’s property empire and buy more property ... let me explain.


Firstly, assets (such as gold and stocks and shares) are great, yet if they aren’t producing income and cash – that doesn’t pay for your day-to-day living. Gold doesn’t create any income and many FTSE companies won’t be paying dividends for a while. Government Bonds are currently earning their investors 0.2% (no – that isn’t a typo) and the best savings accounts are achieving 1.1% with a 120-day notice period, so where are you going to invest your hard-earned money?


The average Northampton buy-to-let property

will earn a monthly return of 4.17%


Of course, deciding on the right Northampton property is crucial to get a good rental income and return. I have seen so many Northampton first-time landlords buy with their heart and not their head. Buying your own home is more heart than head but buy-to-let is a completely different kettle of fish. There is the inverse relationship between income (rent) and capital growth (how much it will go up in value in the future) i.e. as one goes up, the other tends to go down – so getting the balance for your needs is vital. Again, I can advise on that for you.


Secondly, with the stamp duty holiday and the pent up demand for people wanting to move home in Northampton (discussed many times recently in this blog), the Northampton property market is certainly very buoyant at the moment, yet even the most optimistic agents say it cannot last. Whether the market goes pop or has a slow and steady puncture, the market will cool in 2021. The recession will mean some people are less able to afford a mortgage. This means that if Northampton property values do ease off in 2021, you may be able to get a great buy-to-let deal if you are planning on becoming a Northampton landlord or expand your property empire as an existing landlord.


Also, if the property market does find property prices realign to a new normal in 2021/2, house sellers may find it difficult to get a good price on their Northampton home during a recession, meaning many house sellers may be more agreeable to sell their property at a lower price.


Third, if people aren’t buying, they still need a roof over their head and the council aren’t building any council houses, meaning the private sector will need to take up the slack. 


Rightmove reported tenant demand grew by a third in

May 2020 when compared to the same month in 2019


Therefore, if you are still unsure about becoming a Northampton landlord, knowing that more Northampton people want to rent should help you feel more comfortable as the risk of ‘running out’ of renters interested in your Northampton property is minimal. Yet again, please don’t go buying any old Northampton property, as it’s fundamental that you make a good investment from the start in order to see a good return on your investment. 


If Northampton property values do fall in 2021 (as in 2009), 

tenant demand for Northampton property will only go up


Fourth, the Government reduced Stamp Duty with the sole aim to benefit the property market. The purchase needs to complete by the end of March 2021, which means you will need to have bought the property by November at the latest (as obtaining finance and legal work is taking at least 19 weeks). A word to the wise though, that whilst the saving in Stamp Duty delivers some up-front saving for those buying a buy a let property, don’t get carried away and use that saving in the purchase price you pay. Certain sectors of the Northampton property market are seeing some very inflated prices, meaning if you go into battle for a show home quality semi-detached house within a stone’s throw of the best school, you will be fighting against buyers who want it for themselves and are prepared to pay top dollar for it, meaning some landlords could end up paying more for a property. My advice, if you want to save on the Stamp Duty, there are bargains to be had – you just have to know what you are looking for (again, as mentioned in point 1 – I am here to help on that whether you are a client of mine or not). The other option would be ‘just hold back’ until after 31 March 2021, when Northampton property prices could ease. 


Fifth, reports that the mortgage lenders are imposing stricter conditions are true, yet even during Covid, many lenders are seeing buy-to-let landlords as a safer option to lend their money to. In June alone, the number of buy-to-let mortgage products rose by 19.2% (to just over 1,700) meaning if you have a decent deposit of 30% upwards, you are likely to find something that fits your needs (at the time of writing this article, the Birmingham Midshires had a buy-to-let 5-year fixed rate mortgage at 1.94% and Santander at 2.04% ... this is cheap money in anyone’s language). Mortgage rates are ever becoming more economical, which is a great motivation for anyone wanting to get a foot on the Northampton buy-to-let property ladder.


Finally, words cannot portray the feeling of being able to see and touch one’s investment like the sensation of bricks and mortar. Buy-to-let investment has to be seen as a long-term investment yet, for many, that is a source of financial security. Of course property values might go south next year (but they might not!) whereas there may be intervals where it’s more problematic to sell because property values will be too low, as is normally the situation throughout a recession, there will also be times where Northampton landlords will make a nice profit when selling their buy-to-let homes. Like all things in life – it’s all about the timing. 


Northampton property values are 185% higher than 20 years ago


If you’re looking to invest but are not interested in stocks and shares (and you understand that your money may be tied up for a while) then the Northampton buy-to-let market could be for you. 


To conclude, buying the right Northampton property at the right price to start with, presenting the property in the best way to get the best tenant, fully checking out and referencing the tenant to ensure they have a good track record of being a good tenant that doesn’t trash the property and has always paid the rent on time in the past and then finally, managing the property to ensure your property complies with the 200+ legislations and regulations of rental property, so you can sleep well at night … all to ensure the property is returned at the end of the tenancy to you in good order is what nirvana looks like.


Of course, buy-to-let does come with some risks and challenges, but it’s all about mitigating those risks. Also, there is no denying that buy-to-let also comes with a lot of opportunities as well. If you are a landlord with another agent or even a Northampton landlord that manages the property themselves, feel free to drop me a message, email or pick up the phone and let’s chat about your personal goals when it comes to buy-to-let … because what have you got to lose? Surely 15/20 minutes of your time to get great insight and inside track is worth it? 


Remember, the choice is yours!


16/09/2020

The Northampton Property Market Post-Lockdown - The First 100 Days

With around 1 in 5 Northampton house sellers actually selling their home in the last month, Northampton sellers and buyers will need to continue to be pragmatic if the surprisingly strong current levels of activity in the Northampton property market are to be sustained.

To start, we had the once in a lifetime event of the credit crunch in 2008, we then had another once in a lifetime event with the Brexit vote in 2016 and now the mother of all ‘once in a lifetime’ events, Coronavirus in 2020 – three once in a lifetime events in the space of 3 Olympic Games!

The doom-mongers forecast that the British property market would drop like a lead balloon on the scale of the 1989 housing crash (where property values dropped by 30.87% in a couple of years) but would be nothing compared to the tsunami that was Covid. Yet in the first 100 days of the property market coming out of lockdown, behavioural and economic changes mean that many Northampton homebuyers are now even more dedicated to moving home and the Northampton property market is doing quite well.

Going into lockdown, the effect on activity in the Northampton property market during those two months was expectable and predictable as it was placed in suspended animation during April and May. When the Northampton property market re-opened in mid-May, nobody predicted what happened next. Of course, many of us in the property industry estimated some release of pent-up demand from the Boris Bounce, yet nobody anticipated such a ricochet in activity in the Northampton property market.

This is particularly interesting when one considers GDP dropped by 20.4% in Q2 2020 (fascinating when compared to notable historic times when it dropped by 13.8% in WW2 and 16.7% in WW1), yet amidst the largest contraction in the UK economy ever in a single quarter, what wasn’t expected was an increase of potential property buyers and property sellers wanting to move post lockdown. 

Some have cited this boost to the property market on a number of factors. Firstly, we have had the Stamp Duty Holiday, others have pointed at the never seen before 0.1% Bank of England base rates making mortgages cheap, then we had the furlough scheme which protected so many jobs and finally, the pent-up demand from the Boris Bounce. 

Yet, when one actually talks with Northampton buyers and sellers, whilst all of them cite one or two of the above reasons, all of them mention and talk about how the lockdown has made them re-evaluate and reconsider how they want to live, their work-life balance and where they want to live. This is also reflected with tenants changing their requirements when looking for a property to rent (so Northampton landlords - be aware of this).

Demand for apartments in the centre of Northampton has eased off, whilst demand for property with a good-sized garden or other outside space has increased. One question we get asked all the time is also the broadband speeds, although they are quite decent in Northampton (the average broadband in our local Council area being 61.4 Mbps download and 10.2 Mbps upload).

So, with record numbers of Northampton properties coming on to the market - is it boom time for Northampton homeowners?


Of the 1,049 properties that have come onto the market in Northampton over the last month, only 188 of them have agreed a sale (a percentage of 17.9%)


That means around 4 in 5 Northampton people that have placed their property onto the market have not found a buyer yet. 

Yes, the Northampton property market is good, yet the number of people who have placed their property on the market has also gone up. Northampton estate agents have never been so busy putting property on the market and I feel sorry for the chap who is putting up all the for-sale boards – his wife hasn’t seen him in daylight for weeks! 

But that does mean you are in competition with so many other properties on the market (the number of properties coming on to the market typically at this time of the year is about a third to half less). The Stamp Duty boost ends in March 2021, so that means you need to have found a buyer by November at the very latest. By overegging your asking price, to test the market, might mean you will lose out on this hiatus and could end up missing the boat!


The prices being achieved for the Northampton properties that have been selling have been fair and realistic and have stood up much better than many were originally predicting.


Yet as the country looks forward, given the ambiguous nature of the outlook for the British economy and the possibility that Covid-19 may be with us for a little while yet, I must implore Northampton property sellers to be realistic with their asking price so a greater number of you who want to make the move, are able to do so.


08/09/2020

Northampton Millennials Moving Back in with Mum & Dad?

Roll the clock back 20 years and any self-respecting late 20/early 30 something would never say on their first date that they lived with their mum and dad. It was seen as a sign of immaturity being tied to your mother’s apron strings as a failure to leave the family home. Yet over these last two decades, the age of leaving home has been increasing steadily from 20 years and 11 months in the late 1990’s to 22 years and 7 months today.

However, as with all the stats, the devil is in the detail. Although the age of leaving home has only risen by 8% between 1997 and today, those that didn’t leave home in their early 20’s tended to stay much, much longer. 

In 1997, 11.26% of 25yo to 34yo still lived at home with their parents,

yet last year that had risen to 15.74%, an increase of 391,000

‘stay at home’ Millennials 

However, before we deride these Millennials for still being tied to their mother’s apron strings, I would say those very same Millennials (the mid 20’s to 30-year olds) have been pragmatic, being attracted to sacrificing independence in order to achieve their long-term life goals as they have seen rents rise and an inability to save for the mortgage deposit. All of this has seen the first-time buyer levels in this millennial age range rise for the last three years … so good news for everyone!

However, is all that about to change?

Just as mum and dads in Northampton had thought their late 20 something/early 30 something offspring had flown the nest, Covid-19 has blown some Northampton ‘chickadees’ back into the nest. Back in March, the lockdown saw many Millennials flee the big UK cities, with their constrained and poky shared HMO’s and flat shares, swapping their city centre private rented home for their parents’ Northampton home.

Yet with lockdown lessening, it isn’t just remote workers who are unenthusiastic and disinclined to return to the big cities (fearful of a second lockdown) — many of these Coronavirus blow-ins are deciding to stay put too! A recent YouGov poll asked Millennials of private rented homes what their plans were and 1 in 6 tenants planned to hand their notice in on their rented home and fly back to the nest of mum and dad. The advantages are quite plain, especially as it could enable them to save for a deposit to buy their future home.


There are 89,984 households in Northampton, made up of 27,432

single person households and 54,936 family households 

(the remainder being made up of shared houses etc.)


Yet how many of those Northampton family households had non-dependent children before Covid-19?


7,611 Northampton households have children

that haven’t flown the nest


That’s 13.85% of Northampton families whose kids are still to leave home … and it’s only going to get worse!

So, what does this mean for Northampton homeowners and Northampton landlords? 

It will mean that Northampton parents and their children will get to know each other better, build stronger relationships and it will enable their children, if they are wise, to save for their deposit for their first home purchase - who knows maybe in Northampton, as working from home could become the norm.

Also, with remote working, many tenants are looking for properties with bigger gardens which could translate into greater demand for property with bigger gardens? It will also change the property needs of those Northampton parents and potentially could mean instead of those parents moving down market, they could end up staying longer or moving up market? 

Now of course these polls could be a load of hot air? What I do know is that this thing has not played out yet and only time will tell if this will make a concrete change to the way people live, rent and buy property. 

These are interesting times and thank you for reading this. Do let me know your thoughts on this matter.


28/08/2020

The 9,085 ‘Trapped Landlords’ of Northampton

Going into lockdown in March, the Government proclaimed a ban on tenant evictions, pledging that no tenant in a private rented home, who had lost their wages due to Covid-19 would be kicked out of their private rented home until the late summer. Fast forward to August and the press were being briefed as late as Wednesday 19th August that this freeze in evictions in England and Wales would cease on the 23rd August. That was until just after 4pm Friday 21st August when Mr Jenrick, the Housing Minister, announced that the eviction ban would be extended for a further four weeks and also buy to let landlords must now give their tenants six months notice to gain possession.

Cue crocodile tears for all the 9,085 Northampton landlords

Not so ‘snappy’ with piping your eye there. I know many Northampton landlords became landlords between 2000 and 2009 because they preferred bricks and mortar to investing in the stock market or gilts/bonds market. All they were looking for was a small pension income to top up their meagre state pension. Not all Northampton landlords are akin to the 21st Century Rising Damp version of Leonard Rossiter with his ‘Rigsby-esqe’ or even ‘Rach-manism’ wicked landlord ways. Official estimates suggest there are 1.8m to 2.1m landlords in the UK, the vast majority doing the right thing by their tenants, many of whom have helped their Northampton tenants in financial trouble during Covid-19 by acquiescing to short-term rent reductions or rent-payment holidays.

Also, many Northampton landlords have mortgages (in fact, if we added all the UK buy to let landlord’s mortgages, they would add up to £216.65 billion). The Government and the Bank of England have applied political influence on the mortgage companies to be a little more flexible and sympathetic on landlord’s mortgage interest payments, yet the mortgage interest is still adding up. The issue is, some tenants are in arrears with their rent, meaning landlords aren’t receiving their rent, which means many buy to let mortgages aren’t being paid either.

So, how many tenants are in arrears? The National Residential Landlords Association stated that just 3% of landlords recently surveyed reported tenants are in arrears. This was backed up recently when Goodlord stated …

3.72% of tenancies in the UK are in arrears

These are only slightly above the pre-Covid arrears levels, yet still a strain for the landlords involved. Also, the two-month notice period of the section 21 Notice has been extended to six months, meaning it will be March before any tenants are made to leave, even if the notice was issued now. 

So, does this leave Northampton landlords trapped?

With regard to the arrears, only 1 in 17 landlords rent their property through a limited company, meaning the rest (i.e. the vast majority) rent their property as a person, thus giving themselves unlimited personal liability should their rental portfolio fail (i.e. the mortgage company could make a claim on the landlords own assets, including their main residence, if the property was repossessed and the shortfall wasn’t made up). Also, if the building society’s and Banks turn against the Government advice and are too lenient with landlords with buy to let mortgages, there could be situations where the rental properties are repossessed, meaning the tenant will be made homeless.

I am particularly concerned about the fate of the

2,552 self-managing Northampton landlords (i.e. they don’t use an agent)

They should seriously consider taking out rent guarantee insurance to protect themselves against any potential defaulting tenants (so many don’t). Reasonably priced rent guarantee insurance products, even on existing tenancies are still available to landlords via agents, even in these Covid-19 times (whether you are a client of mine or not do not hesitate to pick up the phone and have a chat or send me an email). Whilst the policies aren’t inexpensive – they do give you peace of mind with the rental payments.

One thing that this does also remind me of is the 2008 Credit Crunch. There were an awful lot of Northampton homeowners who were unable to sell their home in 2008/9, so they converted their Northampton property into a buy to let investment. There are going to be an awful lot of Northampton landlords who will also want to sell in the next six to nine months, yet are unable to do so until the middle of next year without having to take a hit on the value of their home. For those Northampton landlords that can relate to that, maybe we should chat to consider your options so you can mitigate any losses?

It seems Northampton landlords have been used to saving the Government from a PR disaster of homeless tenants on the streets at Christmas, the least we should do in the country is stop disparaging landlords and lift them up from their pariah status.

Northampton landlords are housing 38,901 Northampton

people in private rented accommodation…

… and so it is my opinion that the contributions made by these Northampton landlords should be recognised. My fear is always of a danger of a widening schism between the landlords and tenants. Truth be told, both need each other, and I hope the Government extend help to landlords as they have with tenants, otherwise the Government won’t have any homes to house the British people if all the landlords decide to sell up. It is especially important that the supply of private properties doesn’t drop in Northampton going forward when you consider… 

Northampton needs an additional 6,823 private rental homes by 2029

In the meantime, the Government have bigger fish to fry sorting out the economy as a whole, so if you are a self-managing landlord or even a landlord with another agent in Northampton, feel free to pick up the phone or make contact with me and we can discuss your options without any obligation. There is no need to feel trapped, there are options for you and it is better to consider them now - set the foundations and motions going in the right direction promptly before it becomes a bigger issue in the future.


24/08/2020

1,554 Northampton Properties Sold in Stamp Duty Holiday Bonanza

On the 8th of July 2020, the Chancellor announced the first £500,000 of any property bought was exempt from stamp duty until 31st March 2021. This also included buy to let landlords (although they would still need to pay the additional 3% stamp duty level for second properties). Talking to many of you Northampton homeowners, I know lots of you are bringing forward your home moving plans to take advantage of this tax cut. Also, many Northampton portfolio landlords are looking to save paying the tax by bringing their portfolio purchases forward.  Yet how do you ensure you sell and buy your Northampton property whilst the tax cut applies (a saving of up to £15,000 of stamp duty on your next Northampton home?).

The biggest issue whenever you are selling your Northampton property is the properties that you are in competition with. Plenty of Northampton homeowners have jumped onto the stamp duty holiday bandwagon since the announcement and there are 13% more properties for sale in Northampton than there were during lockdown. The number of properties for sale in Northampton can split down into type…

  •      Detached Northampton homes up 18%
  •      Semi-detached Northampton homes up 7%
  •      Terraced / town houses Northampton homes up 16%
  •      Apartments in Northampton up 11%

So, now you know what you are up against, what do you need to know?

The most important factor is the time issue. It currently takes on average 17 to 19 weeks between a sale price being agreed and the keys being handed over, meaning you need to have found a buyer before the end of November or early December to enable you to complete the sale by the 31st March 2021. That means you really need to have placed your property on the market by the end of September and early/mid-October at the very latest to take advantage of the stamp duty Holiday. Don’t get me wrong though, you could put your Northampton property on the market after that date, yet the price you will be able to achieve for your property could be affected.

There are 3,072 properties on the market in Northampton,

of which 1,554 have sales agreed on them

Talking of price, or more specifically the asking price. There is a window of opportunity for Northampton homeowners to take advantage of this stamp duty tax cut, yet don’t let local estate agents curry favour with you by tempting you with a high initial asking price to win the right to put their for sale board outside your Northampton home.

A Which report stated in 2017 that many estate agents routinely over inflated the asking prices of the properties they brought to market. One might ask why this is an issue for Northampton property sellers, as surely, they can just reduce their asking price at a later date? The excellent report proved that those estate agents who on the face of it appear to be doing you some kindness by endeavouring to get more for your home with a suggested higher asking price, the property often ended up selling for much less than similar properties that were realistically priced properties from day one and also, they ultimately took longer to sell!

This Which report compared the original asking price with final selling prices for 370,000 properties to ascertain how many estate agents had reduced the initial asking price of properties in order to sell them. Which found that 70,300 (19%) of all 370,000 properties sold had to be reduced by at least 5% in order to get the property sold, whilst the other 81% (299,700) had no or very minimal reductions to get them sold.

 Of the 299,700 sold properties that weren’t reduced or reduced by less than 5%, the average initial asking price was £261,000, yet they eventually sold for an average sale price of £260,000. For those 70,300 homes whose asking prices were reduced by over 5%, whilst the average listing price was £266,000, their eventual sale price was only £241,000, a loss of £20,000 each. Even worse, those properties with the heavy price reductions (5% or more) took an average of nine weeks and one day longer to sell (when compared to the other properties with no or minimal reductions).

 What that means is by over inflating your initial asking price of your Northampton home, it will cost those Northampton homeowners an extra nine weeks to find a buyer and they will lose out on the final sale price by some considerable margin (meaning you will also probably lose out on the stamp duty holiday).

Assuming your asking is price is realistic, you aren’t out of the woods yet. Other things that will help you get the best price for your Northampton home in the best possible time (and thus save you money with the stamp duty holiday) are …

  • Everyone searches on the portals for their next home. Photos are therefore very important (a picture speaks a thousand words). If the weather isn’t good on the day of the photoshoot, ask the agent to revisit when the sun is out (and even tell them to hold off marketing the property until those pictures are perfect)… as you only get one go at being ‘new to the market’, with all the excitement and interest that causes.
  • Employ the services of a solicitor at the same time as instructing the estate agent. Bringing together the legal paperwork of the property you are selling. By doing so, you will save weeks between the sale agreed and completion. Also, solicitors will be really busy, juggling many property transactions at the same time in the next 200+ days. Anything you can do to get a head start on others can only help your cause.
  • Kerb side appeal. Look at your property from across the road. Does the front door need painting? Could a tonne of gravel spruce up your driveway? Maybe adding some hanging baskets and planted pots will help to make a home stand out for the best reasons?

The final piece of advice I can give you is if you are planning to sell your Northampton home, make sure your Northampton estate agent can show you proof of similar Northampton properties and what they actually sold for to back up their suggested asking price. If the asking price isn’t realistic, the chances are you end up losing many thousands of pounds and wasting everyone’s time. If you would like to chat about selling your Northampton home, please do not hesitate to pick up the telephone.


11/08/2020

Northampton OAP Homeowners to Face £15,349 Coronavirus Tax Bill?

The Government is on track to borrow £400bn because of Coronavirus and that needs to be paid back at some stage. Last year alone, before Coronavirus, the Government brought in £824 billion in taxes whilst they spent £887 billion, meaning they had to borrow £63 billion. In fact, the last time taxes were higher than spending in the UK was 1998, meaning since then the country has been living beyond its means.

Interestingly, whilst these are certainly eye watering numbers (£400bn is a lot of money in anyone’s book) most people aren’t too concerned in the short term. Because interest rates are so low, the Government are able to borrow this money at 0.39 percent per annum over a 10-year period on the Gilt Markets. There are even 3-year Government gilts at a negative interest rate. This is because the UK has been considered (and still is considered to be) a monetary sanctuary/safe haven for the last 20 years because of the country’s robust credit worthiness. Cheap money – yet it still needs paying back in the years to come and that can only be funded by taxpayers. 

Ultimately, the Government will have to try to balance the books and that means increasing taxation. I know many will say there is waste in the NHS and MoD procurement, but that has already been squeezed quite hard during the Credit Crunch crisis and years of austerity. Some have suggested stopping the triple lock on pensions, which costs the Exchequer £6bn a year more than if pensions had risen at pre triple lock rates, so that isn’t going to make much of a dent in the debt. Some have suggested we could enter into a second wave of austerity, like we saw from 2010, yet neither the voters nor the wage frozen public sector would accept that. That leaves tax rises as the only option for leaders who claim to take a responsible long-term view of the economy. 

The Government could raise tax on spending with VAT increases, but they did that in 2011 when it rose to 20% (from 17.5%). Also, increases in VAT affect the poor more than the rich. Then they could raise it from earnings (Corporation Tax, Income Tax and National Insurance) yet it’s been proved raising these ‘earning taxes’ ends up being counter-productive to the economy, resulting in tax receipts going down (even though the tax rate went up). Both are unsatisfactory, not least because big rises end up being unfair to someone. 

So, some ‘think tank’ groups have suggested that we look to unearned wealth and the equity people, especially the older generation are sitting on in their homes, to pay for Coronavirus. Whilst I am in no way promoting and advocating that idea, I thought it was a fascinating suggestion and wanted to know what that would mean for Northampton homeowners if such a fanciful idea took hold? 

OAPs in Britain sit on £1.425 trillion in

housing equity in their own homes

The average length of time an OAP homeowner has been in their property, according to official figures, is 24.7 years, meaning on average, 75.8% of that equity is profit. So, if say a capital gains tax of 10% was placed on any profit, it would raise £107.84bn over the next 20 to 25 years. So, what would that mean to Northampton OAP homeowners? 

Northampton OAP homeowners own £4.504bn

worth of property 

Taking into account the average length of time those homeowners have been in their Northampton home, that is an ‘unearned’ profit of £3.407bn, or £1.803bn after inflation. Some ‘think tanks’ have said that should be taxed as some form of capital gains tax.

To give you an idea, if every OAP homeowner in Northampton had to pay a 10% capital gains tax when they (or their descendants) sold their Northampton home, that would cost them £15,349 each (or a total of £340.73m).

So, is this the answer to pay for Coronavirus? There needs to be tax reforms to protect the public finances yet is it fair to tax previous capital gains? Many people say no. Let’s not forget people buy their homes out of taxed income, then pay Stamp Duty, VAT on any improvements and inheritance tax if the property value is more than £675,000, so is it fair the Government want another slice of pie?

The older generation who bought these homes saw mortgage rates of 19% in the late 1970’s and 16%+ in the early 1990’s, meaning for every pound borrowed, they ended paying back £3 to £4 when you added up the interest. Also, let’s not forget all the money spent on keeping up the maintenance - money that has already been taxed. The upshot will be this would stop OAP’s selling their homes because it would discourage older people from trading down to a smaller home in retirement, making it even harder for younger families to find a big enough home to live in. Also, many people use the equity in their home to pay for retirement care, so if some of that is going to keep the debts down, that means the Government will have a larger social care bill in future years.

One school of thought could be taxing future tax-free gains for ALL homeowners, although given the Tory’s dependence on the more mature middle class (homeowning) voters, this might be a step too far for the Conservatives, so some have said this will be kicked down the road for Labour to sort. Sir Keir Starmer, who appears to be quite a straight-talking and even monetarily responsible Labour leader, is certainly a lot more voter friendly to the British electorate than Corbyn.

At the 2024 General Election, he could introduce what appeared to be a smart agenda of tax increases on unearned property capital gains and as long as it was presented in a clearly defined way, maybe turning the tables on the famous Tory General Election poster from 2010, when the Tory’s mocked Gordon Brown for doubling the national debt, implying it was Labour’s fault for the increase in national debt when in fact it was the Credit Crunch that caused it.   

Starmer could soberly state Labour were the only party that could be trusted to make hard decisions to avoid burdening future generations with the £400bn ‘Tory’ coronavirus debt

One way or another, this £400bn (or £14,440.43 per household) is going to need to be paid back eventually; that means a rise in taxes. Nobody likes paying more tax - yet the truth of the matter is there is a lot of wealth tied up in property, especially with the older generation and so I suppose its introduction is inevitable in the future.

Please tell me your thoughts on the matter…


27/07/2020

What’s Next for the Northampton Property Market?

There is no doubt that Coronavirus will affect the Northampton property market, but just how?

The ensuing economic challenges are going to impact the Northampton (and UK) property market, yet no one knows the real answer. The newspapers eulogise different opinions, but that's all they are – opinions and everybody's got a different opinion. The truth of the matter is we don't know and won’t know for another few months at least, if not more?

There have been some outstanding Government supportive measures both for tenants, landlords, home buyers and sellers (including a pause on evictions for tenants, and for landlords and homeowners, mortgage payment deferments and stamp duty reductions to make buying a home cheaper), and whilst these are only temporary, they have done their job, meaning there is a good level of activity in the Northampton property market.

A lot of that is pent-up demand from a couple of years of uncertainty because of Brexit. Also, we had the General Election in late 2019, so there have been so many reasons for people to sit on their hands. At the beginning of 2020, it was like a water hose ready to burst with the Boris Bounce in January and February. Then, just as things were beginning to get going in the Northampton property market, we had everything freeze up for months during lockdown. Since lockdown has been lifted …

 the Northampton property market is open once again for business

and there is unquestionably some impressive activity both in

the sales and rental market

So, back to the original question and where are we going? I think what we will see is a subtle change to where people want to live because of the pandemic. People working from home has shown that the need to be in the big cities has reduced and as employees have realised, they can work very efficiently from home, plus they are happier and have a better work/life balance. Their employers are also happy as they get more work out of their staff and can reduce their costly office footprint in the cities. The same goes for Northampton tenants as they are wanting more from their rental homes. Three trends we have noticed is there is greater demand for properties with gardens, greater demand for Northampton landlords who will accept pets (as they now can have them as they work from home) and finally, tenants willingness to pay top dollar for ‘top of the range’ properties, whilst more basic and uncared for properties without all the ‘bells and whistles’ need to go for a discount. There certainly has been a flight to quality.

Yet, what worries me is the fundamental future uncertainty in 2021 and beyond. What will things look like, say in spring 2021, when the Stamp Duty reductions are phased out? Any property sold needs to have completed by the end of March 2021 to take advantage of the tax holiday, meaning you need to have sold your Northampton property by November 2020 at the very latest to ensure your property purchase and sale deal goes through in time (as it is taking on average up to 17 weeks between sale agreed and completion). This is where the difference between a great solicitor, brilliant estate agent and awesome mortgage broker compared to average ones will show. Good ones, when all three are working together for you, can get the sale through in 6 to 8 weeks, not the national average of 17 weeks, meaning if you are cutting it fine, you might not be able to take advantage of the tax savings in the spring. Give me a call if you want to know who the best of the best in Northampton are to ensure you don’t lose out on those tax savings. 

The value of the average Northampton home

currently stands at £235,600

So, what is going to happen to the Northampton property market? It really depends on the economy as a whole and of course the property market is a large part of that. I know one thing that buy to let landlords and home buyers don't like is ambiguity and the British housing market has always lived and breathed on emotion and sentiment. People will only buy and sell property (and borrow the money to make those transactions happen) when they feel good. Are all these things like Stamp Duty holidays just putting off the inevitable? Are we heading for the mother of all property crashes?

 Well, let me put sentiment and opinion aside for a second and look at the simple facts.

We have an increasing population,

yet we don't build enough houses

Since 1995, we have built on average 150,200 properties per year. The Barker Report said 2004 the country needed 240,000 per year to satisfy annual demand for new homes and whilst the number of new homes built in the UK last year rose 1% to a 13-year high, only 161,000 homes were built. That means over the last 25 years with the difference between actual homes built and the targets set out in the Barker Report, we have an inbuilt shortage of 2,245,000 homes, meaning …

since the Millennium, property values in

Northampton have increased by 154.2%

Other factors have contributed to that. The average age of a person leaving their parents’ home in the UK is 24.4 years and that has been dropping for a few years meaning more homes are required. People are also living longer (in 2000 the average person lived until 77.7 years and now it’s 81.1 years – doesn’t sound a lot until one considers for each additional year the average person lives in the UK, we need an additional 356,500 homes). Finally, we have got immigration. In the year ending March 2019, 612,000 people moved to the UK (immigration) and 385,000 people left the UK (emigration) – meaning a net increase of 227,000 people (or a requirement of c.100,000 homes to house them in one year alone). All those factors in themselves mean… 

we have more demand for Northampton property than we have

supply and that's not going to change any time soon

Property markets are driven (like all markets) by supply and demand so I believe Northampton property values can only rise in the long term. The question is whether Northampton people will have the sentiment and confidence to borrow money on a mortgage and invest in Northampton property, yet at the moment with ultra-low interest rates, borrowing money to buy a home has never been so cheap and if you are in it for the long-term (which you should be with property) then I think it's good news.

One piece of good news is that mortgage lenders are willing to lend up to 90 per cent loan to value mortgages for first time buyers (and in some rare cases 95 per cent), albeit with a lot of strings attached ... yet this is a good sign as the banks and building societies wouldn’t be lending at these levels if they were too scared.

Investing in property, be it for yourself to live in or buy to let is a long-term game. We might see an uplift in prices in the short term because of the demand mentioned above, then again, we might see a dip in 2021 - yet again for the reasons mentioned above - until we start to build new homes to the scale of 300,000+ a year (something that has never been achieved since 1969), the long-term picture appears to be good. Be you a Northampton landlord, Northampton house seller or Northampton buyer, you have to be a lot more strategic and thoughtful about what you are going to do. If you would like to pick my brains, drop me a message on social media or pick up the phone.

So, those are my thoughts, tell me your thoughts for the future of the Northampton property market?


22/7/2020

Every Northampton Homeowner & Landlord to Receive up to £5,000 Grant for Roof Insulation & Double Glazing from September

The Chancellor announced on Wednesday 8th July in his mini Budget some interesting news for Northampton homeowners and Northampton landlords. Rishi Sunak is going to give ‘The Green Homes Grant’ of up to £5,000 to cover two-thirds of the costs of environmentally friendly upgrades to your Northampton property, with the homeowner covering the other third. There are also enhanced grants of £10,000 for the poorest households where 100% of the cost will be met by the Government.

This is nothing new mind you. The coalition Government in 2013 announced The Green Deal. That deal was in theory to have been a help for the builders, energy saving and home improvement industry, as the Government hoped many would take up environmentally friendly improvements to save energy (and ultimately greenhouse gases). Yet by the time it was brought to an end two years later only 14,000 households had applied, costing the taxpayer £238m (or £17,000 per household). That doesn’t sound good value to me – yet who am I to comment?

Anyway let’s not be negative, as improving our homes does makes sense – after all, research shows Brits have the draughtiest homes in Europe. A recent survey suggests UK homes “leak” heat up to three times more quickly than more energy-efficient homes on the continent.

Data from 80,000 smart thermostats across the EU were reviewed to measure how quickly a home at 20°C inside cooled once the heating was turned off (when the outside temperature was 0°C). Within 5 hours, the average British home dropped by 3°C, the French came in second at 2.5°C yet the Germans came in at just 1°C, meaning British homes clearly need more heating (i.e. greenhouse gases) to keep them warmer.

The chancellor has allotted £2bn to the scheme, which pays for two thirds of the cost of the upgrade and stated that more than 650,000 homes would be upgraded.  This could save those households a total of £195m a year in heating bills (or the equivalent of £300 a year per household), cutting greenhouse gases and saving jobs in the construction industry. The grants can be applied for from September and is open to Northampton homeowners and private sector Northampton landlords. Applications must be made before March 2021 and the Treasury have stated about half of the fund would go to households with the lowest incomes (how low is still to be announced), with an enhanced grant of up to £10,000, saving them up to £600 per annum each on their heating bills.

 

The average Northampton home annually produces 3.644 tonnes of CO2 , compared to the national average of 4.101 tonnes

 

Due to the particular individual nature of the properties in Northampton and their construction type, with suitable improvements in insulation, double glazing and draught proofing, Government statistics state that this could be reduced to 2.204 tonnes for Northampton homes if suitable work (as per the Green Homes Grant) was carried out.

Why is this important? Well UK householders spend £34.735bn a year on their electric and gas bills – this is a lot of money. In fact, looking specifically at Northampton properties …

 

Northampton householders spend £589.83 per year on

heating their homes (compared to the national average of £669.34 per year)

 

Yet, if Northampton householders carried out the energy improvements that ‘The Green Homes Grant’ suggests their energy bills for heating alone would reduce to £453.63 per year ... quite a saving over a decade and beyond (enough to buy a decent holiday – whatever one of those is!).

So, with Northampton homeowners and Northampton landlords being able to spend the grant on loft, floor and wall insulation, low carbon gas boilers, heat pumps, double or even triple-glazed windows, energy-efficient doors and low energy lighting … everyone should win – the environment, the economy and household budgets. More details on the scheme should be released by the Government in August.


14/7/2020

Northampton Homebuyers & Landlords Set to Save £6,466,820 in Stamp Duty Over the Next Nine Months

The British are infatuated with owning their own property and politicians know that. Margaret Thatcher used it as a vote winner in 1979 when she allowed council house tenants to buy their own home. Coming to the present day, Boris Johnson’s Conservative government have anxieties that the Brits have not been buying nearly enough homes lately and, as with all countries in the world, the British property market was put ‘on ice’ for several months to help contain the Coronavirus, exacerbating the problem.

 The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, announced on Wednesday plans to boost the property market by momentarily scrapping Stamp Duty Tax (a tax paid by homebuyers) when they buy a property that costs less than £500,000.

 

Interestingly, Stamp Duty was originally introduced in 1694 as a way to raise funds for The Nine Years' War (1688–1697) against Louis XIV of France and applied to property and some legal documents.

 

Why is this important? Well the Government recognise that when the property market is working well, the economy also tends to work well, yet one of the barriers to people moving home is Stamp Duty. Even before Coronavirus, Brits were moving 40.21% less than they were at the start of the millennium, and now with this dreadful situation, the natural reaction is for people to stay put in their own homes, meaning another potential nail in the coffin for the economy.

Stamp Duty has raised not an insignificant £166.53bn since 1998, impressive when you consider the NHS costs £129bn per annum. Looking at more recent figures, the Government currently raise £1.045bn per month from Stamp Duty Tax and this statement will remove a good chunk of that from the Chancellors coffers each month, yet the Government knows a healthy property market will help the wider economy.

As Stamp Duty is a transaction tax, it restricts labour market mobility, making people who are thinking of switching jobs think twice before moving. Stamp Duty also holds back elderly homeowners from downsizing to smaller homes, which is an issue for the UK, as we don’t have enough homes to meet supply and also curtails first time buyers as it forces them to use some of the savings on the tax, as opposed to using for a deposit.

 

Before the changes, the Stamp Duty thresholds were as follows: 

-       Zero percent up to £125,000

-       Two percent of the next £125,000 (the portion from £125,001 to £250,000)

-       Five percent of the next £675,000 (the portion from £250,001 to £925,000)

-       Ten percent of the next £575,000 (the portion from £925,001 to £1.5 million)

-       12% of the remaining amount (the portion above £1.5 million)

 

and between the 8th July 2020 and 31st March 2021

-       Zero percent up to £500,000

-       Five percent of the next £425,000 (the portion from £500,001 to £925,000)

-       Ten percent of the next £575,000 (the portion from £925,001 to £1.5 million)

-       12% of the remaining amount (the portion above £1.5 million)

 

Landlords and Buy to Let Landlords will also benefit from these reduced rates, yet will still have to pay their additional premium for second homes (as they have since April 2016).

To give you an idea how significant this is, if these rules had been in place exactly a year ago for Northampton properties purchased under £500,000 (i.e. between 8th July 2019 and 31st March 2020).

 

Stamp Duty would not have been paid on 2,635

Northampton properties, worth in total £652,719,700

Anyone buying any home in Northampton over £500,000 are also winners in this, as they will save having to pay the first £15,000 in stamp duty (under the old scheme). This is because during these 9 months, stamp duty is only paid on the difference over £500,000 (so if you buy a property for say £620,000 – one only pays the stamp duty on the difference between £620,000 and £500,000 i.e. £120,000).

I’m all for reducing Stamp Duty, which is imposed progressively at higher rates the higher a property costs (as you can see from the tables above). Yet, short-lived changes to property taxation risk warping the property market and generating a ‘property market hangover’ in Spring 2021. I am part of a group of 2,500 estate and letting agents from the UK, and most of us were running at 150% speed before this announcement, coping with the post Coronavirus explosion in demand.

Now it seems that the ‘feast’ will continue until the end of March 2021 as many more people will move to take advantage of the cut in tax. However, some are suggesting this could lead to ‘famine’ down the line as it will stop people moving into the late spring and summer of 2021. 

History tells us different stories on the influence on transaction volumes from changing Stamp Duty rates. In 1991 the Tory’s raised the Stamp Duty threshold at which house buyers started paying and Gordon Brown did so in 2008 when we went into the Credit Crunch. More recently, both George Osborne and Philip Hammond fine-tuned Stamp Duty so that landlords had to pay an additional Stamp Duty Premium after March 2016 whilst first-time buyers pay less Stamp Duty and the purchasers of more expensive homes (over £1.5m) pay more.

The Stamp Duty changes for landlords in 2016 affected the property market only for a short while and by the autumn, transactions levels had returned to normal. However, in 1991, John Major’s Stamp Duty change encouraged home buyers to bring forward home purchases but nevertheless the property market ground to a standstill again once the benefit ended (although the steps up the 1990’s Stamp Duty levels were much harsher as the tax applied to the whole purchase price, not the margin steps as it had in the 1990’s).

 So how much money will Northampton people save when buying a home under £500k? 

The average Stamp Duty paid by those Northampton homebuyers in the 9 months between 8th July 2019 and 31st March 2020 was £2,454

 Being objective, I can see why the Chancellor could see this as a suitable way to motivate spending because when people move home, they are more inclined to spend comprehensively on property renovations and the services of solicitors, home removal people, tradesmen and estate agents. So, drastically reducing Stamp Duty will undoubtedly help the UK economy, or at least contain some of the damage from the Coronavirus.  

Also, the experience of being in lockdown will have confirmed to many Northampton people that they need a bigger home or one with a bigger garden. I also suspect other people may be able to work from home on a more long-lasting basis, meaning there could be a shift from the larger cities to outlying towns and even a move to the countryside.

 So, these are my thoughts, what are yours?


9/7/2020

The Northampton Post Lockdown Property Market

What have we learned in the first month?

From talking to most of the Northampton estate and letting agents and our own findings, it might surprise many of you that new enquiries from homebuyers, tenants, landlords and home sellers have been at record levels since lockdown was lifted from the property market in mid-May.

There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly we had the pent-up demand for Northampton property from the Boris Bounce in January and February. Next, many Northampton people were planning to move this spring yet were prevented doing so because of lockdown, and finally, surprisingly, an advance wave of home movers seeking to bring their Northampton moving plans forward because of a fear of a second Covid-19 wave later in the year.

So, what does all that look like and how does it compare to the last 12/18 months?

Data from Yomdel, the live chat and telephone answering service for a quarter of UK estate and letting agents, is able to track objective and more current information from across the UK on what is really happening. Each week, they are dealing with thousands of enquiries including:

  • Seller enquiries (i.e. house sellers looking to put their property on the market) 
  • Buyer enquiries (i.e. people looking to view a property on the market with the intention of buying it) 
  • Landlords enquiries (i.e. landlords looking for tenants for their rental property) 
  • Tenant enquiries (i.e. people looking to view a property on the market with the intention of renting it) 

They have created a rolling weekly average of those enquiries for the whole of the UK for the 62 weeks before the country went into lockdown. Then they compared that 62 week average with specific time frames, namely the 10 weeks of the run up to the General Election, the 8 weeks of Post Boris Bounce in January and February 2020, the weeks of lockdown in March, April and early May and then finally, from mid-May, the post lockdown. 

You might ask why tracking estate and letting agency enquiries is so important? 

Enquiries in letting and estate agencies are the beating heart of the property market – they are the ECG machine of the estate and letting agency. Of course house price data has it’s place and is lauded by the national press as the bellwether of the property market, yet it takes 6 to 9 months for the effects of what is happening today to show in those house price indexes, whilst these enquiries are what is happening now. 

Have a look at the data in the graph and table, it can be seen in the 8 weeks up to the General Election, every metric was down. Next, the post Boris Bounce saw house seller and house buyer leads increase yet note how low tenant enquiries were (hardly any change from the run up to the election), everything dipped during lockdown as expected, yet look at all the metrics post lockdown … amazing! (e.g. if a number in the graph/table below is say -25%, that means its 25% below the rolling 62 week average, yet if it were +20%, then that would mean it would be 20% more than the rolling 62 week average)


The numbers speak for themselves! 

So, what is happening in the Northampton property market? Well, there is plenty of activity in the Northampton property market, yet that doesn’t mean everything is back to normal. Enquiries are an important metric, yet another way to judge the health of the property market is to look at the number of property transactions (i.e. people moving). 

Now the Land Registry data isn’t quite as exhilarating, yet it is less volatile. Nationally, it shows that property transactions were at their lowest level since its records began in April 2005. The seasonally adjusted estimate of UK residential property transactions in April and May 2020 was 90,210, 53.4% lower than the 193,500 transactions of April and May 2019. Again though, this was because of the restrictions on moving during Covid-19. The stats for Northampton are still to be released yet rest assured I will share them in due course.

Looking again at what is happening now, when I look at the number of properties for sale…

416 Northampton properties have come onto the property market in the last 14 days alone, and of those, 61 are already sold subject to contract

So, what of the future of the post-lockdown Northampton housing market? While a stern recession seems almost guaranteed, a housing market crash is not. Many newspapers are predicting property values to fall in 2020, then rise reticently from the ashes in 2021. The fact is, nobody knows. The property market is driven a lot by sentiment. Buying a home is not like buying stocks and shares – it’s a home to live in … and those Northampton landlords who are looking for an investment opportunity, often let their heart rule the head (again sentiment) when investing in property.

Property always has, and always will be a long-term investment. Many of you Northampton people reading this, especially potential Northampton first time buyers, have been putting off buying your first home because of Brexit, now its Covid-19, and in a few years, it will be something else. There will always be ‘something else’… and you could get to your 50’s and 60’s, still renting, waiting for the ‘next thing’ to pass before you buy … and end up buying nothing.

Nobody knows what the months or years ahead will bring ... yet what I do know is, people will always need a place to live. Please let me know your thoughts in the comments. Tell us what your experiences are as a Northampton landlord or homeowner, tenant or buyer so we can all learn from each other.


19/6/2020

Is This the Beginning of the End for Buy to Let in Northampton?  …. and should Northampton landlords & Northampton homeowners be worried?


In 2019, the private rented sector accounted for just over four and a half million households or 19.9% of UK households, no change from the year before. Interesting, when compared to the proportion of private rented households in the 1980’s and 1990’s, when the proportion of private rented households was stable at around 9.5% to 10.8%. 

Most of that growth in the private rented sector came in three main spurts. The first growth spurt was between 1999 and 2003 and that was caused when property values were increasing at 20% per annum, the second came from the migration of 1.69m people from the EU8 countries after 2004 and the final growth spurt came about because of the property crash of 2008/9. When I look at the local stats…

6.1% of Northampton properties in 1991 were privately rented, 

whilst the most recent stats stand at 17.7%

Apart from social housing, the other pillar of home tenure is owner-occupation. Owner occupation is made up of two separate groups: outright owners and those who own their home yet are buying the property with a mortgage. 

In 1991, 20.4% of Northampton households owned their property outright and 50% of Northampton households were buying with a mortgage, whilst current stats show 25.4% of Northampton households are outright owners and only 37.5% are buying their Northampton home with a mortgage

Looking at these numbers, two things are clear-

  • The increase in the proportion and number of Northampton outright owners is at least somewhat caused by Northampton’s baby-boomer population retiring, being able to pay off their mortgages and thus going into outright homeownership. 
  • Overall homeownership is down. These figures will be of no surprise to many readers with heightened barriers to home ownership, as saving for the deposit became the prevailing hurdle to getting on the housing ladder together with a substantial increase in the amount of private rented accommodation, provided by an ostensibly ever-growing cohort of buy to let investors.

So, on the face of it, everything looks rosy for Northampton buy to let landlords with the private rented sector growing ever upwards.

This is not the case though, because these stats on private rented and homeownership on Northampton are from the last census. However, the Government have a number of in-depth annual surveys on the property market and since 2016, the proportion of privately rented properties has remained stagnant at between 19% and 20%. Also, over the same time frame, the proportion of homebuyers with a mortgage has increased quite considerably from 30.7% of all households nationally to 35.5% last year. This increase is mainly attributed to an increase in first time buyers.

So, why have we seen an increase in the number of first-time buyers?

Firstly, the government introduced their Help to Buy Scheme in 2013 helping first time buyers get on the property ladder with interest free loans and mortgage guarantees. Secondly, the wide availability of 95% mortgages since the mid 2010’s (meaning first time buyers only need to find a 5% deposit), and finally the continued increasing reliance of deposits from the ‘Bank of Mum and Dad’ have helped to support this growth. 

Interestingly, age is an important factor in these stats, as it’s the 25 to 35-year olds that have seen the biggest increase in home ownership, yet it’s decreased for those in the 35 to 45-year old bracket.

So, what does all this mean for Northampton landlords and Northampton homeowners?

In the next six months, I believe the growth in first time buyer numbers will ease slightly. The pent-up demand of the Boris Bounce in January and February has now been released, and whilst the early signs are very good, we are still to see the effects of the curtailing of the furlough scheme on the people’s ability to move home. 

Many doom-mongers were predicting the banks would remove 95% mortgages after Covid-19, yet looking on a well-known comparison website, at the time of writing, there were 183 ‘95% mortgages’ available to first time buyers, with eye watering low rates of 1.53% with the Halifax on a 2 year fixed rate and 5 year fixed rate with the Skipton at 1.83%. The Bank of Mum and Dad might be a tougher nut to crack for first time buyers’ deposits - the fall in the FTSE and the repercussions this will certainly have on older households’ pensions income may restrict its availability.

This means even though the Northampton property market is doing reasonably well, Northampton homeowners wanting to sell shouldn’t get carried away and ‘over-egg’ their asking prices. The information available today at all buyers’ fingertips means your property can so easily be overlooked as being overpriced, and thus become ignored. 

My advice to Northampton landlords is, even though the proportion of private rented properties isn’t growing, in real numbers it is, as we created 230,000 residential homes in the country last year alone, so we aren’t seeing a mass exodus out of private renting. 

Yet, now might be the time to consider spending money on upgrading what you already own instead of buying another property. Depending on the type and location of your Northampton rental property, the return on investment of certain upgrades can be in the order of 20% to 30% per annum. Don’t fall for the trap many Northampton landlords fall into and upgrade without speaking to a property professional. Whether you are a client or not, I am always here at the end of the phone to give you my advice and opinion.

Please do let me have your thoughts on the matter – thank you in advance.

.

12/6/2020

Are Buy to Let Landlords to Blame for Northampton’s Housing Crisis?

Isn’t it funny that nobody boasts they are a buy to let landlord anymore? Roll the clock back to the early millennium and you couldn’t go to the local golf club or shop at a Waitrose without someone dropping buy to let into the conversation as easily and as often as the weather. 

Yet now, Northampton buy to let landlords have almost pariah status, as they place a brown paper bag over their head when they enter a letting agency, lest they be recognised as such. They can easily be recognised though, as the average age of a UK tenant is 32 years old, whilst the average age of a UK landlord is between 40 and 61 years old.

Joking aside, if it wasn’t for buy to let landlords – Northampton and the UK would be in a rather difficult position when it comes to housing our local people. Many people believe that if you take buy to let landlords out of the loop of the UK property network, then it would be the land of milk and honey for first-time buyers priced out of the market. Those Northampton landlords provide those Northampton tenants with a mixture of homes to live in and using market forces, ensure the right number of Northampton homes are available. In fact, the stats show that…


Northampton buy to let landlords provide 15,921 Northampton homes for 38,901 Northampton tenants

Yet the retort from many tenant organisations would be that Northampton landlords are wealthy middle -lass people, voraciously exploiting the failing Northampton property market for their profit and greed. Of course, the demographic of an average Northampton landlord is they tend to come from more fortunate backgrounds, with 3 in 4 of Northampton landlords aged between their late 40’s to late 60’s and 4 in 10 having a degree level qualification.

It also wouldn’t surprise anyone to learn that those who invest in buy to let Northampton property are likely to be better off than those who have not yet been able to buy a home. Yet, that is the nature of the country we live in and it’s a consequence of a competitive free market economy (the alternative didn’t go too well in Soviet bloc). Indeed, asserting that the buy to let landlords represent a transfer of wealth and money from tenants to landlords is like saying that the pub represents a transfer of wealth from drinkers to the pub landlord.

Don’t get me wrong, the tax loopholes for landlords up until 3 or 4 years ago were a little ‘too’ generous, still these were closed by the Tory’s themselves. However, should the Government try to place even more burden on landlords like some are suggesting, forcing them to sell, I am certain some Northampton first time buyers would find it cheaper to buy their first Northampton home. This is because they wouldn’t be in competition with Northampton landlords to buy the starter homes both types of buyers crave, meaning house prices would drop (simple economics would dictate that). 

Yet, if the supply of Northampton privately rented homes contracted at a greater rate (because landlords were selling up) than demand, this would make renting more expensive (again simple economics) for the vast majority of Northampton tenants who were still renting a Northampton home. Irrespective of whether property values dropped, it might take years for a tenant to save for a deposit, whilst for the rental properties the landlords wants to sell, the tenants only need to be given two months’ notice to leave so the property can be put on the market. 

One might ask why don’t the local authorities build more council houses?

Well, Government funding has been tight because of the Credit Crunch deficit since 2009 and going forward because of the current situation with Covid-19, it will get even worse. In fact, of the 617,230 new homes built in the country over the last 4 years, only 8,270 or 1.33% were built by local authorities, meaning only just over 1 in 100 of all new properties built in the last 4 years were built by the local authorities.

This is important as the number of people in rented property has been growing over the last 20 years. In fact, when you look at all the tenants in council and private rented accommodation locally…

33.7% of Northampton people live in a rented property

Interestingly, the demographic of a council house tenant is totally different to that of a tenant in a private rented home. The average age of a council house tenant is 52 years old (compared to 32 years for a private rented tenant), so it appears the older generation have the upper hand on council houses. So again, who exactly is going to house the people of Northampton, especially the younger generation that can’t afford to buy?

Local authorities haven’t got the money, housing associations get their money from central Government, so the only other source of housing is private landlords. The problem existed before private landlords filled the gap. No doubt many Northampton landlords have certainly gained from the problem, especially between 2000 and 2007, yet at the same time, they have helped home millions of people. 

Consequently, are Northampton landlords greedy and selfish?  For most law abiding Northampton landlords, who look after their tenants and their properties really well, nothing could be further from the truth… and yes they have made some money – yet if you take into account property maintenance, mortgage finance, taxation, agent fees, surveys and inspections – it’s really not the gold mine many think it is. 

Not until all the political parties stop using the housing issue as a political football will this issue be sorted. For example, it makes sense to allow mass building in the South East, again driving up supply and making property more affordable, yet that would wind up the Tory voting home county heartlands. It’s a shame because we do have the room to build more homes, in fact…

Only 1.2% of the country has houses built on it

The country needs a massive root and branch change to sort things out, yet I have grave misgivings that any politician has the stomach or the political resolve to do anything about it. 

If Covid-19 does affect the confidence in the property market that will in fact be good news for Northampton landlords, as long as the Government doesn’t put its big ‘size 9’s in to the rental market by taking even more money out landlords pockets.

Historically, ambiguity in the property market typically results in an expansion in activity in the private rental market. Prospective home movers will rent in between selling their home and buying the next one, while budding first time buyers typically postpone their purchase and stay in the private rental market for marginally longer … which all increases demand for rental property.


7/6/2020

Is This a Good Time to Buy Your First Home in Northampton?

Should you wait to buy your first home in Northampton or buy now? What sort of mortgages are available? What sort of deposit is required? These are questions all Northampton buyers are asking at the moment, yet this week I would like to focus on Northampton first time buyers and what it means directly and indirectly to Northampton homeowners looking to move up the Northampton property ladder and Northampton buy to let landlords.

Well quite frankly, to answer that question it’s contingent on what Northampton property you are looking to move into and even more significantly, how long you are hoping to live in that property.

We have many armchair economists and even professional economists predicting Armageddon when it comes to the property market, yet the Northampton (and UK) property market is essentially very sound. Don’t forget the Chancellor himself, George Osborne warned that if we voted to leave the EU two things would happen. Firstly, the UK property market would crash and property values would drop by 18% in the two years after the vote. Secondly, there would be an ‘economic shock’ to the country’s economy that would increase the cost of mortgages (through increased interest rates as there would be a run on the Pound). UK GDP rose by £132bn in the two years after the referendum and interest rates actually dropped locally, with regard to property values …

Northampton house prices rose by 14.2% in the 2 years following the Brexit vote

Lloyds have predicted an enormous 30% fall in property prices over the next 36 months whilst Savills have suggested a short dip of 5% during the summer, based on very low transactions numbers, with property prices bouncing back to be just over 15% higher in 5 years’ time. This assumes that the UK plc economic downturn is short & sharp, and that no substantial gap opens up between supply and demand in the property market (i.e. everyone doesn’t dump their property market all at the same time).

Northampton Property Values after the 2008 Credit Crunch crisis plummeted 15% between 2008 and the end of 2009.

Yet, the circumstances of the 2008/9 property crash were fundamentally different to today. Many ‘armchair economists’ assume there will be a re-run of the 2008/9 and 1988 property crashes in the coming 12 months in terms of house value falls. Yet, dissimilar to the last recession, this dip has not been led by previous years of strong property price growth like the other two crashes. House prices in many parts of the UK have been down in the last 12 months. 

You would think Northampton first-time buyers who have already saved their deposit could grab a bargain in the coming months, you would believe they would have less competition in the market because of landlords holding back buying additional rental properties. This is because of the press speculation that rent arrears are sky high from tenants who are unable to pay their rent. Yet evidence from many professional bodies in the private rental sector state rent arrears across the whole of the Country are appearing to be very low indeed, despite Covid-19. 

Interestingly, the firm Yomdel who handles ‘web live chat’ and ‘phone support’ for thousands of estate and letting agents have reported national activity is higher than the two months of the Boris Bounce (in January and February 2020). The number of new buyer enquiries for the last two weeks is double (108.9% higher to be precise) than the 2019 yearly rolling average. New landlord enquiries are 32.1% higher than the 2019 average and tenants are 150.1% higher than the 2019 average ... these are all great signs and go against the doom monger economists. 

My best advice to all Northampton property buyers is, be they second time buyers, first time buyers, landlords … whatever number buyers, they should buy with a medium-term view of future Northampton property values, instead of an expectation of always looking to making a quick few pounds flipping a property (i.e. selling it quickly).

Let’s not forget that mortgage interest rates are another important factor: they are at a 325-year low, so borrowing money has never been so inexpensive. If you know you are going to be living in your first (or second) Northampton home for five years and you want the peace of mind of knowing precisely what your mortgage payments will be, then it’s very attractive. At the time of writing, Barclays are offering any first-time buyer a 95% mortgage on a 5-year fixed rate of 2.95%. The average value of an average terraced house in Northampton is £199,400 and so with the 5% deposit of £9,000 on a 35-year term the …

Mortgage payments on a typical Northampton terraced house would only be £727 per month (i.e. much cheaper than renting)

Many lenders are lending money even if you are on furlough, yet you may find you won’t be able to borrow as much pre Covid-19. Interestingly, some mortgage companies will even take into account total income, where your employer is topping up the Government’s furloughed amount, whilst other lenders will consider mortgage applications on a case-by-case basis. The best advice I can give is, don’t assume what you can or can’t borrow. Speak to a whole of market mortgage broker, to see what is possible – not what your friend on Facebook tells you, what you can or can’t borrow. 

You only need to put down a 5% deposit for the property you would like to buy

If you think about it, it’s inconsequential if Northampton property values drop or not, or if they do drop whether they bounce back quickly (or not as the case maybe) because it’s impossible to know the bottom of the property market. I would say if you find the right Northampton property for you, at the price that feels right, that will be your home together and you are going live in that Northampton property for the next five to ten years, it’s not a bad time to be buying.  It is like waiting for the next piece of tech – there will always be a better model or an assumed better time. We are talking about your home here – a home for you and your partner and family, be that your kids, dog, cat, pet or favourite pot plant because …

Spending money on rent is all wasted money – at least when you buy your own home, you start to pay your mortgage off from day 1

So many first-time buyers use the Bank of Mum and Dad to help with their deposit, yet I have spoken to many parents who wouldn’t want to interfere in their mature children’s life and subsidise day to day expenditure, yet are embarrassed to offer their help with the deposit. If you don’t ask …you don’t get!